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Tabb challenged for Jefferson Co. Commission seat

October 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Population growth has been a mainstay topic in local elections in recent years and it remains a dominant issue this year as Jefferson County Commission member Jane Tabb prepares to defend her seat from challenger Frances Morgan in the upcoming Nov. 7 general election.

The candidates say growth and how to manage it has generated considerable interest from county residents this year and that was further proved when a candidate's forum Sept. 17 in Scrabble, W.Va., was devoted to growth.

About 50 people showed up at the Mt. Wesley United Methodist Church to hear Tabb, a Republican, and Morgan, a Democrat, and two Berkeley County Commission candidates debate growth issues.

Tabb and Morgan are competing for the Middleway district seat on the commission, a six-year job which pays an annual salary of $30,800.

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The incumbent

Tabb, 53, of 922 Old Leetown Pike, Kearneysville, W.Va., said the commission has been working on a rewrite of the county's land-use laws by working with a firm known as Kendig Keast Collaborative.

Among the proposals being suggested by Kendig Keast Collaborative is "clustering" of homes to save open space in the county, an approach Tabb said she supports.

At the same time, Tabb said she wants flexibility in the county's agricultural zone, which allows farmers to have farm markets or restaurants which specialize in locally grown food.

To encourage commercial growth and help generate more tax revenue, Tabb said she would like to see the county move to mixed-use development in residential areas which would allow for businesses such as convenience stores.

"I always want to see that balance," Tabb said.

Tabb said she disagrees with Morgan's criticism that the commission's management of land use has been "jumbled and confused" and points to progress the commissioners have made in improving land use regulations, particularly those relating to agriculture.

There has been increased interest in preserving the local agriculture economy, particularly in light of the area's population growth and under new land-use regulations passed by the Jefferson County Commissioners last year.

"We have not been asleep at the wheel," Tabb said.

Tabb said other issues she has emphasized in her campaign is the commission's move toward creating more space for cramped government offices in downtown Charles Town and consideration of a fire and emergency medical services fee to help pay for expanded ambulance and fire protection services needed because of population growth.

Tabb, a Leetown, W.Va. farmer, graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in dairy science.

The challenger

Morgan, 43, said she has enjoyed her time on the campaign trail and said she has been surprised by the large number of people who are concerned about how increasing development is changing the face of the county.

Morgan said residents are speaking with one voice about how their quality of life "is going in the tank" and they are concerned about how growing residential development is having an impact on roads and services like police protection.

"They're feeling the stress," said Morgan, who stands for protection of historic and sensitive environmental areas, greater public input on decision making, slowing the rate of home building and controlling traffic before it becomes unmanageable.

Morgan, an organic farmer, said her criticism of the commission is not so much over votes by commission members, but by the lack of votes to set a course for effective land-use management.

Morgan said the commission's decision to bring on Kendig Keast Collaborative to write new land-use laws is an "election-year conversion," although Morgan said she believes she can work with the Kendig Keast proposals to formulate effective land-use regulations.

Morgan, who is not related to commission member Rusty Morgan, said she has observed how special interest groups have bullied and intimidated the commission into what they want, but Morgan said she will not fall victim to such tactics.

"I will not be intimidated by the brandishing of a lawsuit in front of me," said Morgan, adding that her training as an attorney can help "empower the county commission" to draft good land use laws.

"We are all fortunate to be able to live in Jefferson County: a place drenched in magnificent American history; a place with such marvelous geographic resources as great rivers and mountains and wonderful open farmland. But we need to take care of our county. We need to ensure that Jefferson County remains a beautiful, historic and welcoming place for our future generations," Morgan said on her Web site.

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